Just as the withdrawal pains were kicking in (it’s been at least three months since Mr. Bonamassa has released any new material), the prolific JB returns with his own tribute to the great British Bluesmen of the 60’s and 70’s. Recorded live at London’s Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich in early July 2016, no stops are left unpulled as the music of Beck, Clapton, Page are given the Bonamassa treatment to wonderful effect. The DVD opens with a brief black and white introduction of how the Blues arrived in the UK at the start of the 1960’s, narrated by ex-Manfred Mann vocalist Paul Jones, it sets the scene nicely for what is to follow.
All the usual suspects are assembled as Joe takes the stage, dark suited with trademark shades and Gibson Les Paul in hand and we are off at lightning speed, which will, on the whole be unrelenting for the next 100 minutes. Beck’s ‘Bolero/Rice Pudding’ is the perfect opener, lifted from Jeff Beck’s 1966 debut solo album, it maybe a brave move to start with an instrumental, but with a guitar solo as good as this, the gamble immediately pays off.
As usual JB is a man of few words preferring to let his playing do the talking, and on Clapton’s ‘Mainline Florida’ he makes it look effortless, whilst keeping the audience in the palm of his hand, it’s such a great track, even the sun is coming down for a closer look. Time for the band to shine, starting with a ragtime like piano, keyboard legend Reese Wynans kicks off Zeppelin’s ‘Boogie With Stu’. With the song progressing, everyone plays their part, all clearly loving every minute of bringing these classics to life.
Bassist Russ Irwin shares the vocal duties for ‘Let Me Love You Baby’. Although it’s hard to believe the Stevie Ray Vaughan version could be bettered, this comes pretty close. Although the pace of the show is slowed down somewhat for the intricate mid section, it’s not long before we are back up to full power, bringing the song to its thunderous conclusion. Returning to the Jeff Beck catalogue for the next couple of songs, we get both the Rock for ‘Plynth (Water Down The Drain)’ and brilliant powerhouse Blues for ‘Spanish Boots’, the latter a great ensemble piece which gives the rhythm section of Michael Rhodes on bass and the ever fantastic Anton Fig on drums the chance to show everyone exactly how it’s done.
‘Double Crossing Time’ is probably the one song of all the greats on here that Joe Bonamassa was born to cover. Clearly in his element, playing with such speed and ferocity that his fingers are just a blur, it would appear he is on a mission to single handedly keep the Blues alive whilst blasting through this old Bluebreakers number. Next up is our second visit to Clapton’s ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’ album and ‘Motherless Children’. It’s an instant toe tapper with its chugging steam train like rhythm, its exceptional playing all round, and the fact that this song is originally over 90 years old, proves just how timeless this music really is.
After fifty unrelenting minutes have flown by, it’s time for band introductions and Joe finally speaks to the highly appreciative audience who give each band member the applause they richly deserve. Rest over and it’s time for some Cream, and surely one of the strangest song titles ever –‘ SWLABR’ (handily translated by JB as She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow) complete with a SlowHand like red guitar, this classic from 1967 is given the full Rock out treatment, with JB and Rhodes taking centre stage, driving the song through to its typically bombastic finish. From one all time classic British Rock ‘n Blues band to another, ‘Tea For One/I Can’t Quit You Baby’ gives JB the opportunity to do his best JP as the solo is taken down to an intricate, barely audible level, before soaring to heights that even the Zeppelin boys in their heyday would’ve done well to match.
In a slight departure for the heavy Blues/Rock ‘Little Girl’ takes us the nearest we are going to get to a Pop song. An upbeat number that would sound great on any of Joe’s solo albums. No surprise that the red guitar stays on for ‘Pretending’, one of solo Clapton’s best tunes and the most modern of all the songs played tonight. The only thing that could have made this better is a cameo appearance by God himself, but alas, it’s not to be.
‘Black Water/ Django’ with its slow start and slightly Indian feel sees Joe in familiar solo show territory, and whilst not traditional Blues fare, it’s done with such style and flair that a moment of self-indulgence is completely forgivable. It’s yet another highlight of this exceptional DVD release. What better way to finish off an enthralling evening than with an all-out 15 minute long, throw everything at it, barnstorming version of ‘How Many More Times’, which even has time to include a section from Bad Company’s ‘The Hunter’. Everyone gets their 5 minutes in the spotlight with a special mention for a wonderful, mid-song Anton Fig drum solo. The crowd are on their feet as a truly memorable evening is brought to a spectacular conclusion.
Extras on the DVD include Joe and band playing The Beatles ‘Taxman’ at the world famous Cavern Club in Liverpool and an introduction to the evening by Journalist Mick Wall who certainly doesn’t miss the opportunity for a shameless book plug. A welcome addition to any live music lover’s collection, especially for fans of Mr. Bonamassa (Me), this disc provides a great record of a special evening, and a fantastic souvenir for those lucky enough to have actually been there.